IG news Update,
Members of the Petitcodiac Fire Department are breathing a sigh of relief.
Less than 12 hours earlier, a group of volunteer firefighters were responding to a collision on Trans Canada Highway 2 when the news came over the radio.
“We got hit,” recalls Peter Saunders, mayor of Three Rivers and volunteer firefighter in Petitcodiac.
The first truck, Engine 12, was dispatched ahead of the rest of the department’s trucks, which were on their way. While members in Engine 12 were first assessing the scene, an eastbound transport truck struck the rear of the fire truck.
Saunders said the truck’s lights were on and the entire rear is detailed with fluorescent chevrons.
“There’s a lot of lights on that truck, there’s a lot of markings on that truck, there’s a lot of reflective tape on that truck; There should be no reason why someone is coming behind us if they are paying attention and if they are going the speed limit,” he said in an interview.
Saunders said people routinely aren’t following the move-over law, and the department has had some close calls. Two years ago, she bought an arrow light to give an extra warning to pulling over cars.
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The move-over law requires cars to move to the farthest lane, if safe, and reduce speed to half the posted limit when passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road. Violation of that law comes with a $292.50 fine and three demerit points on the license.
For Saunders, the risk of answering calls on the highways is always on the back of his mind. Speeding and distracted driving are things he regularly sees while answering calls with his members.
“It’s something we dreamed would never happen to us, but it happened to us,” he said. “They’re reaching out, they volunteered their time, and now we have a chance to basically run away.”
Captain Brian Dunfield was one of the firefighters who responded to the call.
When he heard the radio message his first thought was the people who were already on the scene.
“That was my main concern. Our trucks are replaceable, our people are not,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
The truck has been badly damaged. The rear frame crumpled under the force of the crash. The impact rendered the area useless for water pumps.
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Engine 12 is the main truck of the department. It holds the most water and has the best pump.
Dunfield said this is a great loss to the community and its fire department.
Dunfield said that as a firefighter, he would much rather run into a burning building than be called to the side of the road from any highway, given how risky those calls are.
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“Four Lanes is probably one of the most dangerous places we work,” he said. “There are vehicles that do not slow down…there is a lot of distracted driving. It is too risky for us to stand there.
The truck is out of service and the department is awaiting an assessment of whether it can be repaired. Saunders said this could mean completely replacing the truck, which could cost more than $750,000 and take up to two years.
New Brunswick RCMP said the investigation into the collision is ongoing and had no details on what may have caused the accident. It said no charges have been filed so far.
For Dunfield and Saunders, it was a relief to know that everyone who moved out had returned home.
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